Light Reading

Comcast's Cohen: Define Internet Fast Lanes

Mari Silbey
5/14/2014
50%
50%

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen is certainly earning his pay these days.

Taking advantage of another forum to state his company's case on the open Internet debate, Cohen spoke at the inaugural MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit Wednesday morning. Covering issues that included paid prioritization, the interconnection market, usage-based billing, and market consolidation, Cohen made it clear that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) believes it is not only following the legal guidelines imposed by US regulators, but also the principles of the government's open Internet policy.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler provoked an immediate and largely negative reaction last month when he proposed letting broadband providers create network "fast lanes" for bandwidth-hogging Internet video companies such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX). But Cohen cautioned that the definition of a fast lane hasn't even been determined yet. (See Edgewater Reanimated by $5M for SDN/NFV.)

"We are not sure we know what paid prioritization, or what a fast lane is. No one's defined that," he said in this morning's conversation with telecom analyst Craig Moffett.

Moffett then clarified that Comcast's current commitment -- under the conditions that it accepted in exchange for approval of its acquisition of NBC Universal -- doesn't take paid prioritization into account at all. Cohen agreed. "Whatever it is," he said, "we're allowed to do it."

While Cohen was definitive about following the letter of the law, he was also careful to emphasize that Comcast isn't trying to get away with anything that goes against the spirit of the open Internet. He pointed out that even if strict Title II regulations were imposed on the broadband market, there would still be nothing to prohibit operators from providing different levels of service to different types of customers, just as they currently do when differentiating between business and residential subscribers. The premise of offering different types of service, in Cohen's view, doesn't violate the open Internet doctrine.

Speculating on Wheeler's upcoming Internet regulatory rulings, Cohen also guessed that the chairman would ultimately decide that paid prioritization deals have to be determined on a case-by-case basis, with "commercially unreasonable" agreements being deemed unlawful under regulatory review.

Neither Moffett nor Cohen spoke in detail about the current battle between Internet service providers and transit providers such as Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) and Cogent Communications Group Inc. (Nasdaq: CCOI). Transit providers have argued that some ISPs are deliberately allowing peering points to degrade to force transit partners to pay for better service. However, Cohen did say that he believes the cost of transport should be proportionate to actual usage. He added that the right way to manage overall costs is to move to a usage-based billing model for consumers.

Comcast is currently running tests of usage-based billing in several markets, including a pilot in Atlanta that was started late last year. Cohen said that so far the Atlanta trial has had no effect on about 98% of customers. He also argued that if the model is adopted universally in the future, he believes the same trend would hold true, with very few subscribers needing to pay monthly overage fees for exceeding a capacity threshold.

The entire conversation at the MoffettNathanson event comes within the context of both Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and the FCC's plan to consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the subject of open Internet regulations. (See FCC's Wheeler: 'Internet Will Remain an Open Pathway' and In Cable We (Anti)trust.)

Although the rhetoric level is high, there are significant issues being hashed out within the public sphere. The debate continues tomorrow at the next FCC Open Commission Meeting.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/15/2014 | 1:58:40 PM
Re: What am I missing?
It's clear that there's a great deal of short term profitability potential for carriers making sweetheart deals for their own content and for providers. In the long term, a neutral net makes the Internet more desirable and useful and therefore creates more profitability potential for everyone. 
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/15/2014 | 1:18:51 PM
Re: What am I missing?
My take on Cohen's comments is that he's trying to be politically correct at the moment, but still leaving the door open for fast lane charges. On one hand he says he's for open internet but on the other says he's waiting on the FCC rulings and Comcast will be entitlted like every other provider to adopt new pricing,
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/14/2014 | 7:52:05 PM
What am I missing?
I am hugely suspicious on the subject of net neutrality, but Comcast's proposal seems reasonable. Charge everybody based on usage. As long as everybody's charged the same rate -- but not necessarily the same amount -- then usage-based charges are perfectly fair, reasonable, and preserve competition and openness. 
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/14/2014 | 4:49:14 PM
Cohen
"Cohen said that so far the Atlanta trial has had no effect on about 98% of customers. He also argued that if the model is adopted universally in the future, he believes the same trend would hold true, with very few subscribers needing to pay monthly overage fees for exceeding a capacity threshold."

That would entirely depend on Comcast adjusting its caps to scale with usage demand, though. And since the entire purpose of imposing these caps and meters is to protect TV revenues from Internet video, I have an aching suspicion that won't be happening.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (8) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
LRTV Documentaries
How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Converged Communications: Working Simply & Smartly

3|17|15   |   03.24   |   (0) comments


Edwin Diender, CTO of Huawei's Enterprise Switch & Communications division, outlines the four main pillars of Huawei's unified communications portfolio and explains how the addition of 4K video capabilities has helped Huawei develop a groundbreaking videoconferencing solution.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Women in Tech Coming Into Focus
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/20/2015
Will Open Source Groups Keep Windows Open?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/20/2015
Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
The Rise of Industry 4.0
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
Net Neutrality Suits: Only The Beginning?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 3/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
More Is More Click Here
T-Mobile's Buy One Get One Free deal was too much for Fluffy to pass up. He decided more was more.
Latest Comment